Kathy Hochul

Hochul quietly set Feb. 13 date for Bronx special election to replace Latoya Joyner

Bronx Democrats plan to nominate local attorney Landon Dais to run in the special election.

Gov. Kathy Hochul quietly set an early special election date in the Bronx.

Gov. Kathy Hochul quietly set an early special election date in the Bronx. Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

You wouldn’t know it if you checked the state or New York City Boards of Elections websites, but the Bronx has a special election to replace former Assembly Member Latoya Joyner on Feb. 13 – the same day as a congressional special election on Long Island. 

Joyner stepped down from her seat in District 77 on Jan. 8, which gave Gov. Kathy Hochul 10 days to declare a special election date. Most expected she would announce an election in mid or late March. But in a quiet move, she signed a proclamation on Jan. 12 that set the date for Feb. 13, the earliest possible Tuesday for the election to be held.

The Bronx Democratic and Republican parties have already selected nominees to compete in the Feb. 13 election.

The Bronx Democrats are expected to formally nominate a candidate as soon as Thursday evening. While district leader Yves Filius was originally considered the front-runner to get the Democratic party’s nod, he announced on Thursday that he was withdrawing himself from consideration. Two sources close to the county party told City & State that the party has instead selected Landon Dais, a local attorney and consultant with experience in the cannabis industry, to be its nominee.

Republicans, meanwhile, will likely officially nominate activist Norman McGill. In his press release – which included the date of the election that has otherwise been unpublicized – McGill included a statement from the Bronx Republican Party chair.

Normally, the governor cannot set a special election in a state legislative race for any sooner than 40 days after such proclamation, and no later than 50 days. Ordinarily, that would make the Feb. 13 date too soon. But a provision of the law allows the governor to set the date sooner if another special election was taking place at least 30 days after the proclamation. And it so happened there is. Voters in Nassau County and Queens will head to the polls on Feb. 13 in the race to replace former Republican Rep. George Santos in the 3rd Congressional District. Although Hochul had 10 days from Joyner’s resignation to set a special election date, waiting any longer would have prevented her from choosing Feb. 13.

Hochul’s office did not put out a press release announcing the special election date, nor did she post on social media to publicize the proclamation as she did recently for the special election in the 3rd Congressional District happening on the same day. As of Thursday afternoon, neither the state nor the city Boards of Elections websites had any information about an upcoming Assembly special election in the Bronx either. 

A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately return a request for comment about the special election proclamation. But an hour after this story was published, Hochul released a statement announcing the special election in the 77th Assembly District and linking to her Jan. 12 proclamation. "With Latoya Joyner's departure from the Assembly, a special election to ensure representation for the 77th District will be held in February,” Hochul said in the statement. 

The apparent decision not to publicize the special election raised the eyebrows of good government advocates. “One way to compare it is to how much they promoted the Santos race,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “It breaks my heart that the governor and the political establishment aren’t doing all they can to advertise a near-Valentine’s Day special election.” Horner noted that electoral turnout has improved in New York the past several years, but the state still lags behind many other parts of the country. “This is the kind of stuff that turns people off,” he said. 

Rachael Fauss, senior policy adviser at Reinvent Albany, concurred: "Voter participation in special elections is abysmal, sometimes in the single digits, so it is even more important for the public to know when they are happening,” she said. “Any official decision of the Governor should be quickly published on her website, particularly when it relates to our democracy."

A representative from the Bronx Democrats did not immediately return a request for comment on whether the organization asked Hochul to set the special election day for as early as she did.